UPDATED: Ex-Arizona Wildcats in the NFL: Where are they now?by Anthony Gimino on Aug. 29, 2011, under Arizona football
Updates with the Vikings waiving OL Conan Amituanai, and the Lions waiving RB Mike Bell and S Michael Johnson on Monday. The Bengals, according to a report, reached an injury settlement with DT Lolomana Mikele before releasing him.
As of Monday night there were 19 former Arizona Wildcats football players on NFL rosters; teams have to cut to 80 by Tuesday and then to 53 by Sept. 3.
Several ex-Cats won’t survive those cuts but could end up on practice squads or hook on with other teams.
Since camps began, seven former Arizona players have been waived — rookie free agent OL Conan Amituanai (Minnesota), rookie free agent receiver Travis Cobb (Chicago), rookie free agent DT Lolomana Mikaele (Cincinnati), running back Chris Henry (Seattle), running back Mike Bell (Lions), defensive back Michael Johnson (Lions) and veteran tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, who failed his physical in Chicago.
Here is a breakdown of who is still standing, for now:
Colin Baxter, C, San Diego
Baxter, who started an Arizona Wildcats record 48 consecutive games, probably won’t crack the final roster as an undrafted free agent, but he does seem a good bet for the practice squad. He also has played guard in preseason games.
Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago
The six-time Pro Bowl player is the most-decorated of the former Wildcats in the NFL, and he has been a stalwart on the Bears’ defense for the past eight seasons, recording 864 tackles. But there could be trouble brewing.
The 30-year-old Briggs is unhappy about his contract, according to the Chicago Tribune, and will demand a trade if he doesn’t get a new one before the end of this season. He will make $3.9 million this season (with bonuses), $4 million next season and $6.5 million in 2013, according to the Tribune.
Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville
Britton started 15 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2009 and appears to have a long career ahead of him. He missed the final nine games of last season with a shoulder injury, and is suffering from a back injury right now, but he hopes to be ready for the season-opener.
Antoine Cason, DB, San Diego
Cason flourished last season as a starting cornerback in his third year in the NFL, making four interceptions and breaking up 17 passes. He also averaged 16.5 yards on 14 punt returns.
Lionel Dotson, DT, Buffalo
Dotson has been on and off the Miami Dolphins active roster for the past three seasons, appearing in seven games. He seems to be on the bubble with the Bills.
Ricky Elmore, OLB, Green Bay
The rookie sixth-round pick has struggled in camp, according to various reports, as he adjusts to outside linebacker after being a standout defensive end for the Wildcats. He has to work to do to make the final cut.
Nick Folk, PK, New York Jets
Folk, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, connected on 30 of 39 field goals last season, his first with the Jets. He re-signed with New York on a one-year deal and is battling Nick Novak for a Jets’ roster spot in the preseason. Folk has made 94 of 120 field goals in four NFL seasons (94 of 120) and all 168 of his extra-point attempts.
Adam Grant, OT, Denver
Overcame injury problems at Arizona to land as a rookie free agent with the Broncos.
Nic Grigsby, RB, Miami
Grigsby, probably the most intriguing of the rookie free agents from Arizona, wowed the scouts at UA’s Pro Day in the spring. The Dolphins’ recent signing of veteran Larry Johnson adds to the competition, as Miami already has Reggie Bush and rookie second-rounder Daniel Thomas ahead of Grigsby on the depth chart.
Chris Gronkowski, FB, Dallas
Gronkowski became the Cowboys’ starting fullback last season after joining the team as an undrafted free agent. He’s fighting for a roster spot now with Shaun Chapas and Jason Pociask.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
Had an excellent 2011 season, making 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns, which was a franchise record for a rookie. He finished the regular season with his first 100-yard day — with six receptions for 102 yards against Miami. No former Arizona Wildcat had ever made more than seven TD receptions in an NFL season.
Chris Jennings, RB, New York Jets
Jennings, who walked-on to Arizona as a junior college transfer, was playing in the Canadian Football League in 2009 when the Cleveland Browns called. He ended up rushing 63 times for 220 yards that season. He didn’t play in the NFL in 2010, but signed with the Jets in January. Jennings, trying to make the team behind Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight, had a 69-yard run against the Bengals in a preseason game.
Spencer Larsen, FB, Denver
The former All-Pac-10 linebacker was a two-way player for his first two seasons in Denver, famously starting at fullback and at linebacker as a rookie. Now, he is exclusively an offensive player, and he appears headed for a more prominent blocking role as the Broncos will feature more of a power running game this season.
Earl Mitchell, DT, Houston
Second-year pro is battling with former USC Trojan Shaun Cody for a starting spot at nose tackle in the Texans’ new 3-4 scheme. Mitchell made 28 tackles last season as a rookie.
Nate Ness, DB, Miami
Has spent time with four teams after originally signing with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2009. Hooked up with the Dolphins during the 2010 season after being released by Seattle. He played in three games with Miami.
Brooks Reed, LB, Houston
The second-round pick is making a successful transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, and had two sacks in a preseason game against New Orleans. From the Houston Chronicle: Texans rookie Reed a real stand-up guy.
D’Aundre Reed, DE, Minnesota
Reed, despite being a backup at Arizona, was intriguing enough as an athlete to be a seventh-round pick in 2011. Reports indicated he looked good early in camp before suffering a camp injury. He’s a solid bet to survive the final cut.
Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville
Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2009, set a franchise rookie record with 48 catches for 453 yards. He followed up in 2010 with team-highs in catches (66) and receiving yards (820), highlighted by one of the plays of the year in the NFL, catching a deflected Hail Mary pass from David Garrard for a last-play touchdown for a 31-24 win over Houston (see video below).
Vuna Tuihalamaka, LB, Indianapolis
He signed in early August after spending the 2010 camp with the Colts as an undrafted free agent. He spent brief time on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad late last season.